It’s hard not to fall in love with clothing designer Iris Setlakwe. Elegant and warm, she receives us in her huge office-workshop on rue Chabanel in Montreal, where she creates all her collections with her team of designers. Portrait.
Iris Setlakwe is self-taught. She grew up in Sherbrooke in the Setlakwe general store run by her father. “The first Armenian immigrant in my line is Aziz Setlakwe, he arrived in Quebec in 1904 and went into business. My grandfather, Michel Setlakwe, and his brothers opened a general store in the Eastern Townships, where we sold clothing, especially for skiing,” she explains.
At 21, she launched her first business, a clothing agency. In 2001, she created the brand that bears her name to offer clothes that look like her. “From the start, I linked three words to my brand, which are still topical: simplicity, comfort, elegance. I’ve always liked clothes that have a timeless style,” she says.
Dress all women
Iris Setlakwe is a premium women’s clothing brand. There are suits, dresses, shirts, knitwear, jeans, from the most chic to the most casual outfits. “My philosophy is to create quality clothing collections, here in Quebec, and contribute to the local economy,” she explains.
I dress women of all ages, from head to toe, both for work outfits and for the weekend. It’s important to me that they feel beautiful.
Iris Setlakwe also dresses many personalities, such as Céline Galipeau, Mélanie Joly and Karine Vanasse. ” I am very proud. When we feel good in our clothes, it gives us power and strength. Very often, women do not know how to flatter their figure, wear the right colors and styles that look good on them. You just need to know how to match the clothes and have the right cuts and lengths. I’m always happy to help them choose their wardrobe. »
The designer’s inspirations are multiple: she listens to and observes people a lot, she loves travel, the European style, beautiful materials, fabrics and details, like the pretty buttons on a jacket. “My collections reflect my life,” she says. I am a 53 year old active woman, I have two children, a 24 year old daughter and a 23 year old son, we live in Montreal and in the Eastern Townships in Knowlton. I wear jackets, dresses, but also more sporty outfits on weekends. I now dress my daughter’s friends who are starting their careers, I’m delighted. »
She specifies that she also offers a turnkey wardrobe service for businesswomen. “We take care of everything, for very busy women. »
The two Irises
In an interview, the designer and entrepreneur talks about her duality, her creative side that coexists with her “business” side. “I wear both hats and I actually have two offices! There is the cerebral side where I write employment contracts, I buy fabrics, plan collections. And there’s the creative side, I create collections with designers, I play with fabrics and have fun with colors… I even allow myself to be messy! I like working in a team and sharing my know-how, because I learned everything on the job. »
She also works with her family, with her spouse and with her daughter. “It is extraordinary to work as a family, because there is a trust that is established and it is pleasant to delegate certain departments. The problem is that we are passionate, so the tone sometimes rises, and we talk a little too much about work at home! »
Iris Setlakwe always has a multitude of projects in mind. In 2021, she launched a home collection made up of cushions that uses leftover fabrics from clothing collections. It is also developing a leather division as well as an evening dress offer. “I love doing development. We have a clientele that has followed us for more than 20 years across Canada and the United States, in addition to our two stores, at the Rockland Center and in Knowlton,” she says.
The woman with many hats is still very enthusiastic in her community, despite the lack of manpower affecting the manufacturing sector. “We lack seamstresses, pattern makers… but when you do what you love in life, you meet the challenges. It gives energy, it stimulates, we are happy. I really encourage young people to find their way. »